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    The Fidi this weekend.

    The Fidi this weekend.

    As I have mentioned before, I wind up in New York most weekends and this one is no exception. I’m staying in the Financial District, as I usually do, where there has been a particularly eerie spell cast over the streets. Cops are patrolling the area, one should have an ID handy, clergy members are not permitted to take part in this weekends ceremony, etc. It feels extremely  dystopian.

    I’m sure I’ll have a longer post tomorrow, but today’s sentiment is really not something to be happy about. We were attacked ten years ago largely because of our commitment to a free society, which feels just as threatened when my movement is tracked so closely. I’m not angry that there is a high concentration of military and policemen; I know they mean well and I feel safe. But it’s hard to feel like the world is a safer place now than it was ten years ago. 

    September 11 brought out some of the best in New Yorkers and, if anything decent can come from the anniversary of an act of terror, it should be the spirit that followed. For instance, Scott Heiferman found himself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors helped each other, etc. which inspired him to co-found meetup.com: using the internet to get off the internet — and  grow local communities.

    Friendship is the way we should respond this weekend.

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    WarEagle82 | September 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    I spent a lot of time in countries where the police and military patrolled the streets carrying fully automatic weapons. The very fact that these governments felt it necessary to patrol the streets with police and military carrying fully automatic weapons made me feel unsafe.

    We won’t win this war by massive numbers of police patrolling the streets looking for the bad guys who are here. We need to control the borders to prevent the bad guys from getting here and then use the resources of the government, state and federal, to get bad guys out of the country. Then we won’t need troops in the streets on the 13th anniversary of 9/11…

    Kathleen, I agree with you. Friendships ARE the way to deal with this weekend and the ignoble threats of terrorism.

    I would add that commemorations are very important and so are community events such as square dances, church picnics and the like.

    A one on one relationship with others is very important. Loving our enemies is the real ground zero.

    New York City is a singular place, one that is constantly reinventing and rebuilding itself. There are precious few structures that last long in its huge energetic embrace. For example, a few Sugar Houses once stood there, but stand no more. Those were the buildings where thousands of our first national heroes were cruelly held prisoner, and where so many of them perished under abysmal conditions during our Revolutionary War for Independence. Today, they are mere addresses, ones where you could stand and face toward the hallowed ground but only imagine what was once there.

    There are, however, a few notable landmark exceptions. One of them suddenly emerged from relative obscurity ten years ago, and became bound up forever as an inextricable part of the memory of 9/11 and its aftermath.

    Who could possibly ever forget the moving speech of the Mayor of New York, Rudy Guilani, on September 23, 2001 at the Citywide Prayer Service held in Yankee Stadium, noting as he did the miraculous fact that St. Paul’s Chapel, and its quaint churchyard, located at 209 Broadway and its back facing Church Street, a fragile edifice situated in the immediate shadow of the World Trade Center, had somehow emerged unscathed amid the horrendous damage and destruction that rained down all around it?

    Though littered with a thick blanket of debris from the collapse of those several buildings, he noted that not so much as a window was broken in the Chapel!

    This little ancient church was the frequent place of worship of George Washington, who chose to attend services there whenever he was in New York City, including to pray following his first inauguration. Gracing the inside wall, right adjacent to pew that great man occupied, is a timeless reminder, a priceless yet unattributed painting of the Great Seal of the United States of America. It too was undamaged and somehow untouched by all the havoc for literally blocks around.

    Here was a part of how America’s Mayor put it back in 2001:

    ”Even in the midst of the darkest tragedy there are miracles that help our faith to go on. I would like to share one miracle of September 11th with you. St. Paul’s Chapel is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in the City of New York. It was built in 1766, when the surrounding area was still countryside. The Chapel survived our war of independence — including seven years of wartime occupation. After George Washington was inaugurated the first President of the United States, in New York City on April 30th, 1789, he walked to St. Paul’s, and he kneeled down to pray. The pew where he worshipped is still there. Framed on the wall beside it is the oldest known representation of the Great Seal of the United States of America — it’s a majestic eagle, holding in one talon an olive branch, proclaiming our abiding desire for peace . . . and in the other, a cluster of arrows, a forewarning of our determination to defend our liberty. On a banner above the Eagle is written E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One.” For the past 25 years, the chapel stood directly in the shadow of the World Trade Center Towers. When the Towers fell, more than a dozen modern buildings were destroyed and damaged. Yet somehow, amid all the destruction and devastation, St. Paul’s Chapel still stands . . . without so much as a broken window. It’s a small miracle in some ways, but the presence of that chapel standing defiant and serene amid the ruins of war sends an eloquent message about the strength and resilience of the people of New York City, and the people of America. We unite under the banner of E Pluribus Unum. We find strength in our diversity. We’re a city where people look different, talk different, think different. But we’re a City at one with all of the people at the World Trade Center, and with all of America. We love our diversity, and we love our freedom. Like our founding fathers who fought and died for freedom . . . like our ancestors who fought and died to preserve our union and to end the sin of slavery . . . like our fathers and grandfathers who fought and died to liberate the world from Nazism, and Fascism, and Communism . . . the cluster of arrows to defend our freedom, and the olive branch of peace have now been handed to us. We will hold them firmly in our hands, honor their memory, and lift them up toward heaven to light the world. In the days since this attack, we have met the worst of humanity with the best of humanity.”

    During the entire cleanup period following 9/11, untold numbers of the firemen, police, other emergency workers, the frequently unheralded and dedicated steelworkers, and countless others, who all labored throughout that agonizing cleanup period, sought moments of refuge and inspiration at St. Paul’s. Professionals of all stripes attended to peoples’ needs there.

    Their personal faith did not matter. Many of them were ministered to and were always offered refreshments and countless other forms of assistance alike by the staff, and by the volunteers of multiple denominations and faiths who put in time there on behalf of the workers.

    There is not now, nor could there constitutionally ever be an established church of the United States. But I would submit that, in its way, that little Chapel was for a time a kind of inspirational ground zero for many people, almost as if a metaphorical spark of recognition was reignited there, if you will, triggering a reaffirmation or a reconnection that many Americans have had to whatever faith they personally hold dear. It is a regular pilgrimage site for visitors to the area.

    Maybe a subconscious sense of that is part of why a kind of mass denial seems to have once again surfaced and has now cast a sad shadow over one aspect of these 10th year remembrance ceremonies. We Americans seem to have gotten ourselves trapped by the organizers in the odd notion that merely speaking of religion at an official gathering, or, in this case at memorial services, or even permitting or merely inviting religious leaders of any denomination or faith to attend those remembrance ceremonies, must perforce be rejected at all costs.

    The memorial ceremonies truly should be centered on the families of the victims. But they should also include the responders and those who assisted them, including those who ministered to them, and by extension to all of us.


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